Guest / Limited Access /

Recently I read yet another lament of evangelicalism's "consumerist" approach to spiritual matters. Such critiques usually say that evangelicals encourage people to shop around to find the kind of church that meets their spiritual "needs." This needs-centered understanding of the Christian life has fostered a widespread breakdown of denominational and congregational loyalty, critics say. Faithfulness to a specific theological or ecclesiastical tradition has been replaced by "church shopping."

I must confess that I am more vulnerable than most in light of this charge. I am presently co-chairing, on behalf of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the officially sponsored dialogue between representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and four denominations in the Reformed tradition. In a sense, I am the most ecumenical member of the dialogue, having belonged at one time in my life to three of the four sponsoring Reformed denominations: I was raised in a parsonage of the Reformed Church in America, then belonged for 17 years—during my time on the Calvin College faculty—to the Christian Reformed Church, and am now a member of a PC(USA) congregation. Furthermore, my wife and I often attend services in a local Episcopal parish. So when I hear people refer disparagingly to "church shoppers," I feel that I need to defend my own shopping.

I have never thought of myself as "separating" or "seceding" from anything. If someone wanted to characterize my moves as being guided by spiritual tastes, I would have to admit to the appropriateness of that depiction. To the degree, then, that there is anything to this charge of consumerism, I would guess that I am the sort of Christian who participates with a fairly clear conscience in a part ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedSurprised by N.T. Wright
Subscriber Access Only Surprised by N.T. Wright
The Bible scholar's goal is to massively revise the way we talk about the Christian faith. By many accounts, he's already succeeded.
TrendingFive Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon
Five Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon
If you want to help people see Holy Week with fresh eyes, start by dropping these familiar fallacies.
Editor's PickWatch and Wait
Watch and Wait
Tarrying with Christ and the fearful dying.
Leave a Comment

Use your Christianity Today login to leave a comment on this article. Not part of the community? Subscribe now, or register for a free account.

hide thisJanuary January

In the Magazine

January 2008

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.